16 reasons why history’s greatest writers loved books

Stephen King has called books “a uniquely portable magic.” It’s probably one reason that Americans still buy approximately five million books a day and that 125 new ones are published in the US every twenty-four hours. In fact, Google estimates that as of August 2010, there were 129,864,880 books in existence. This love affair with the written word has a long and passionate history and, unsurprisingly, its most ardent supporters have often been writers. Here’s why in their own words.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” — Henry David Thoreau

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” — Victor Hugo

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.” — Marcel Proust

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” — Mark Twain

“Knowing you have something good to read before bed is among the most pleasurable of sensations.” — Vladimir Nabokov

“We read to know that we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.” — Virginia Woolf

“The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.” — Gustave Flaubert

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” – Franz Kafka

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  – Ernest Hemingway

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” — L.M. Montgomery

“I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”  – Ray Bradbury

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges

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